Quality in the Age of YouTube

salesgeniusThe unanimous choice among CG/FX types for the best Super Bowl ad this year is the Psyop Coke spot (which many of us had seen in some form last year ).

And now, a radical thought: the job of advertisements is to sell product. Did Coca Cola sales jump as the result of that ad? It seems highly unlikely, and not just because they’re selling sugar water (or the “sweet poison,” aspartame). The appeal outside of the small circle CG geeks seems limited – at the party I attended, I gushed over the beautiful work and I don’t remember anyone else in the room saying anything. Bad sign, for my party opinions, sure, but also for Coke. Poor KO.

Meanwhile, there is also a unanimous choice for the worst Super Bowl spot: salesgenie.com. As King Kaufman observed in his column (typically about sports):

It looked like one of those ads you see while watching “Three’s Company” reruns on late-night cable.

The watching world was horrified. The ad was roundly panned. Salesgenie’s spot had committed the ultimate sin, evidently: It had lacked irony. The commercial ranked dead last in the USA Today “ad meter,” which represented the results of tracking the reactions of volunteer audiences with hand-held meters.

“This spot is so monumentally brainless and amateurish it actually attracts attention,” wrote Bob Garfield in Advertising Age, “i.e., is this really a Super Bowl ad???”

Yet the ad seems to have been the most effective of them all. According to USA today:

The sales-lead website generated more than 10,000 new customer subscriptions by late Monday, far more than the 700 it said it needed to break even on its ad cost. “Our ad wasn’t supposed to be funny or clever,” InfoUSA CEO Vin Gupta says. “It was supposed to bring in subscribers, and it’s been successful beyond our wildest dreams. We’re already working on next year’s ad.”

Is the moral of the story that those of us who care about artistry, believability, even taste for god’s sake, are doomed to be ignored in favor of fourteen second documentaries about sneezing panda bears?

Nah, there’s still room for both; Idiocracy, after all, is a few centuries off even by exaggerated satirical calculations. But if you’re creating something and you want to reach people, might as well keep in mind that the direct approach sometimes – often? – you know, works.

9 February 2007 | punditry | Comments

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